After much research and planning, I am thrilled to introduce my 5th grade reading group to GENIUS HOUR! Genius Hour is a project-based learning activity that allows students to explore their own passions; it encourages creativity in the classroom and promotes inquiry, perseverance, problem solving, and innovation, among other lifelong skills. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school.
Genius Hour has many roots, but is based on a business practice used by Google with its employees. Google allows their developers to spend up to 20% of their work week to pursue projects of personal interest. The rationale is that happy, inspired, engaged employees are more motivated, innovative, and productive. Google’s 20% projects have worked so well that some of their most popular ideas, such as g-mail and Google News were created during this time. To learn more about Genius Hour, check out the short video below:
How will it work?
Over the next semester, my students will pursue a project of personal interest. It can be on whatever topic they are passionate about, but it must include the following project guidelines:
1. Projects are inquiry based; an essential question drives the project. Students need to communicate what they want to learn about and why. If a question can be answered with a quick “Google search,” then we will develop the question or topic to include greater depth.
2. Projects are research based. For example, if a student wants to learn how to design an App or how to speak Italian, research on the topic must be involved.
3. Projects are shared! Every student will present their final project within and outside our class. Students may share on a small scale, like with another class, or they may elect to go big and share the information they've learned in a global way.
What Common Core State Standards does Genius Hour support and develop?
Genius Hour nurtures the vast majority of the College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading. (You can read more about the Common Core Anchor Standards here: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RI/5 The standards our 5th grade ELA group will address with intensity include:
- RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
- RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
- SL.5.2 Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
- SL.5.4 Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
I introduced Genius Hour over the course of a week with some inspirational videos from Kid President, a young boy named Cain from East L.A., and group of elementary-aged school students who tried to save the world in 5 minutes a day. We talked about how these videos could inspire, drive, and relate to our own passions. I also wanted students to realize that they could think BIG! Genius Hour projects have no boundaries, so I want students to think outside of the box (or the classroom!) to pursue areas of genuine, authentic interest and inquiry.
We also read about and discussed the difference between an interest and a PASSION. A.J. Juliani's Blog post, "6 Simple Strategies to Help You Find your Passion," has some wonderful insights, which I used to prepare for the lesson. Based on our initial brainstorming session, my 5th graders established that we have thousands of (if not more!) interests! Using Juliani's idea of a "March Madness" bracket, we organized our favorite topics and teased out our interests from our Passions.
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Once an area of interest was selected, each student generated "I wonder" questions, which we used to create a WONDER WALL. Questions were then analyzed and sorted. Questions that could be answered with a quick Google search were eliminated. Open-ended, inquiry based questions were identified and improved. On Friday (the 4th day of Genius Hour), students submitted a project proposal, which included three of their best inquiry-based questions.
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I have brought the students' proposals home to pour over this weekend. Once projects are approved, I plan to solicit the knowledge, skills, and expertise or our parents and community to help students achieve their goals. (I'm working on an volunteer survey now, which I will post for free once complete.) Stay tuned!
If you are interested in learning more about or starting a Genius Hour with your own class, the following three web sites are a TERRIFIC place to start!
Thanks for checking in!